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The Effect of Corporate Knowledge Loss

In 2004, a study of 240 organizations was conducted by TalentKeepers, who found that the greatest impact of employee turnover was lost knowledge – not profitability!  Lost knowledge had negatively affected a staggering 78% of the organizations.

How does knowledge loss make such an impact?

Let’s first look at what corporate knowledge does when it is retained:

–          It enables employee performance.

–          It is a resource that helps facilitate the creation of new knowledge.

–          It helps employees quickly solve problems.

–          It allows you to leverage all your employees’ accumulated experiences.

–          It can be shared with new employees.

–          It supports innovation within your organization.

–          It positively affects relationship with your clients/customers.

broken metal chain linkAny employee leaving your organization takes with him/her their own unique knowledge and experience of their job.  If this knowledge walks out your door without being documented, your organization will be, according to Arnold Kransdorff,  “plagued with an inability to learn from past experience, which leads to reinvented wheels, unlearned lessons, a pattern of repeated mistakes, productivity shortfalls, and a lack of continuous performance improvement.”  On the surface, that comment might seem harsh; but retaining knowledge to leverage within your business is essential to moving forward with expedience in the most cost-effective way.

Capturing employee knowledge must be done strategically.  It may not be possible to capture the knowledge of ALL employees, but it makes sense to capture the knowledge affects business performance.  Therefore, it is essential that an organization identifies the knowledge it needs to retain and where that knowledge resides when developing a knowledge capture-and-transfer strategy.  For example, knowledge may consist of workplace culture, best practices, awareness of procedures, organizational history, or understanding of industry trends or factors.

Ideally, effective knowledge capture is not performed at the point of employee exit, but rather in small incremental transfers of knowledge over a longer period.  By adopting continuous knowledge capture and transfer program, organizations significantly reduce the uncertainty associated with employee exits.  A program like this can be enhanced by skill-based employee assessments than can be used by an organization’s management to identify situations in which knowledge is held by only a few employees or even just one.

If such a situation occurs, training and employee development can be undertaken to ensure retention of knowledge within the organization.  Experienced employees could take part in interviews or focus groups to hash out their combined knowledge and experience, which can then be shared with new employees through a coaching or mentoring program.  The organization can then turn all that experience into reusable materials to support its strategic objectives.

About Bernadette Allen

Bernadette Allen is President of The Competency Group.
Tags: knowledge capture, skilled labour shortage, skills development, strategic planning, succession planning, training